Wayson Choy is a Chinese Canadian writer and author of the Jade Peony (1995), which won the Trillium Award and the City of Vancouver Book Award. Its companion All That Matters (2004) was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Both novels follow the lives of three Chinese Canadian siblings living in Vancouver, British Columbia’s Chinatown during the Second World War. His book Paper Shadows (1999) paints a portrait of the author’s own childhood in Vancouver’s Chinatown in the 1940s. His most recent book Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying, intimately reflects on love and life after the author’s two near-death experiences. Since 2003, Wayson Choy has been professor emeritus at Humber College, Toronto, Ontario. In 2002, he was designated a Companion of Frontier College, and in 2010 he received a Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, from Sir Wilfred Laurier University. Since 2005, he has been a Member of the Order of Canada. He continues to reside in Toronto, Ontario and is currently working on his fifth book.
‘And I wanted to know what was it that my mother and father, and all of them, the elders – what were they looking at? Then I discovered there were whole stories that took 5 or 6 hours to play out, from 7 o’clock to midnight.’
In this audio clip, Wayson Choy describes being excited by the acrobatics of the Cantonese Opera. He suggests that opera storylines could translate across cultures, even finding parallels in the cowboy movies he admired as an older boy. But while his parents’ generation knew all the opera stories by heart, the Cantonese opera culture had declined by the time Wayson’s generation came of age.